Rugby World Cup: Candid player holds tongue

By Scott Morgan, Michael Burgess

Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu holding his nephew Samuel Sapolu-Palu and fans. Photo / Amos Chapple
Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu holding his nephew Samuel Sapolu-Palu and fans. Photo / Amos Chapple

The outspoken Manu Samoa player who attacked the IRB online during the Rugby World Cup was yesterday ordered to do volunteer work to help rugby in the Pacific nation.

Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu emerged chastened from the meeting of the disciplinary tribunal in Auckland where he was sentenced to 100 hours of community work to support rugby in Samoa.

He was also ordered to pay a $1000 fine, take a refereeing course within three months and was gagged from criticising the International Rugby Board, Rugby World Cup or match officials for two years.

It came after a string of slurs across Twitter in which he denounced the IRB for scheduling Samoa's games too closely together and accused referee Nigel Owens of racism.

Fuimaono-Sapolu also has to apologise in writing to Owens. He faces a six month ban from rugby if he does not comply with any aspect of the ruling.

Hundreds of supporters cheered Fuimaono-Sapolu as he entered the hearing but he was a man of few words when he emerged.

He said he planned a break from rugby. "I don't feel like playing rugby any more."

The centre thanked all his supporters after the hearing, which lasted more than eight hours.

At a hearing last week he had just six supporters; yesterday about 400 people gathered outside the central Auckland building, forcing police to close the road.

The crowd sang hymns as they waited, holding banners and placards which spelt out their frustration.

One called for "Justice for the next generation" another said "Tier 1, Tier 2 IRB shame on you" and another paraphrased Martin Luther King; "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere".

Teammate Fillipo Levi was among a number of players to offer support.

Levi said he had raised the same concerns in the past but it had not drawn the same attention.

TWEET AND SOUR

* September 18: "It's obvious the IRB are unjust. Wales got 7 days, we got 3. Unfair treatment, like slavery, like the holocaust, like apartheid. F*** u.

* "I wonder how would these tier 1 teams function with only three days' rest. IRB stop exploiting my people. Please, all we ask is fairness. If they get a week, give us a week. Simple."

* October 1: That's why we need a neutral ref. All I'm hearing is how bullshit the ref was! Haha. He was f**king shit! I can understand the hate!!

* Haha good luck u racist biased prick. I'm proud to be Samoan! IRB my bum, kiss it!

* October 15: "I don't feel like playing rugby any more. I had to compromise."

- Herald on Sunday

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